Historic U.S. Senate Hearing Held on Uniting American Families Act

by HRC Staff

Legislation would end discrimination against same-sex couples in immigration law and allow Americans to sponsor their partners.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today lauded the first-ever congressional hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The hearing, held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was titled "The Uniting American Families Act: Addressing Inequality in Federal Immigration Law" and featured a number of witnesses testifying in support of the bill, which would allow U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents in same-sex relationships to sponsor their partners for immigration purposes.

"For far too long, our elected officials have ignored the devastating real-life consequences that current immigration policies have had on thousands of same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We thank Senator Leahy for his leadership in holding the first-ever congressional hearing on this critical legislation."

The Human Rights Campaign has been working with the Office of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to prepare for the hearing and submitted questions for Senators. HRC also submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee which can be accessed on the HRC blog: http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2009/06/senate-committee-takes-up-uniting-american-families-act/

The witnesses testifying in support of the legislation included Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Christopher Nugent, Co-Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Immigrants, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, for the American Bar Association and Shirley Tan of Pacifica, California and Gordon Stewart of London, England, two individuals in bi-national partnerships whose lives have been deeply impacted by the inequities in our nation's existing immigration laws.

Under U.S. immigration law, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes. But gay and lesbian Americans are not afforded this basic right. Consequently, many bi-national gay and lesbian couples are kept or torn apart. The Uniting American Families Act would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration by meeting the same standard as different-sex couples. The bill would impose harsh penalties for fraud, including up to five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines.

According to the most recent U.S. Census, nearly 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans are in bi-national couples. Their median age is 38, and 47% of bi-national couples are raising children.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email press@hrc.org.